Simple astronauts' hack to cope in Covid-19 lockdown

Romain Charles spent 520 days in an enclosed space with five other people to study the psychological effects of long-distance space travel, while Léopold Eyharts spent two months on the ISS

Romain Charles

If you think the Covid-19 confinement is difficult, imagine spending 520 days enclosed in a tiny space with five other people.

That’s just what confinement expert Romain Charles did when he signed up for the Mars 500 experiment, carried out in 2010-11 to explore the psychological ramifications of sending humans to Mars.

Eighteen months – 520 days – is the time it would take to travel to the Red Planet, spend 30 days there, and then return to Earth.

The six men who took part in the experiment entered a mock-up Mars capsule in Moscow. It had no daylight, no fresh food, no running water and only restricted contact with the outside world.

For 520 days they carried out experiments, collected data about their physical and mental well-being, and maintained their environment – all without once leaving the capsule.

Mr Charles said the group proved that a journey to Mars was psychologically possible, despite the long confinement.

“It was a long time, but I was very motivated because I wanted to contribute towards space travel to Mars, and I also wanted to get a job connected to space exploration,” he said.

Although the general public never specifically signed up for the lockdown, as he did for Mars 500, he said that everyone can find motivation in wanting to succeed.

In his case, it was the experiment, and in the current situation it is beating Covid-19.

“Motivation helps us continue difficult tasks,” he said. “Another common point is that both experiences are temporary. The lockdown will not last forever.

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